From the Y Crate: Asia Blue

From the Y Crate, #6:

“Escaping” by ASIA BLUE (Atomic)

This song actually had a reprieve. Dina Carroll scored a Top Three hit with her cover of it in 1996 –  four years after Asia Blue’s version flopped (insert “Atomic bomb” joke here). The original’s still the better version as far as I’m concerned. I wonder what these ladies are up to now?


From the Y Crate: vintage ccm

From the Y Crate, #4&5:

“My Friend (So Long)” by DC TALK (Virgin)

“But dc Talk were huge!” I can hear their fans protest. Yes, they were – in the Christian market. But when Virgin picked them up for mainstream release in the UK, this single flopped like the proverbial lead baloon. They had a big page feature in The Independent; GLR’s breakfast DJs raved about it and gave it lots of play (and years before all this, they’d even had a mention in Touch magazine, courtesy of you-know-who)… but none of that translated into chart success. A shame, because I’d have loved to have seen Toby, Mike & Kev on TOTP. But as those protesting fans have pointed out, aside from doing nada in the UK singles charts, dc Talk were big business elsewhere. So somehow, I don’t think they’re that bothered.

“Wonder Why” by PFR (EMI)

Around the same time that Virgin were failing to chart with dc Talk, EMI were having an equally unsuccesful shot at pitching PFR to unchurched Brits. I didn’t even know this had been released as a single until I came across it in the “cheap to a good home” box at my local record shop. Another great tune the British public missed out on…

From the Y Crate: This Way Up

From the Y Crate, #3:

“Tell Me Why” by THIS WAY UP (Virgin)

After Culture Club imploded in the late 80s, their guitarist Roy Hay teamed up with a singer by the name of Robinson Reid to form the duo This Way Up. They released a few singles, but had nowhere near the success of Roy’s old band. This was the first of theirs that I heard; I happened to see the video for it whilst watching The Chart Show one Saturday morning (ironically, several songs in the Y Crate had their videos featured on The Chart Show; you’d have thought that with a name like that, they’d only show videos of songs that had actually charted). I have a soft spot for any song that drives me to pick up one of my three massively under-played guitars – and for this song in particular, because its simple guitar riff is the first one I taught myself to play.

From the Y Crate: Keoni

From the Y Crate #2:

“Keoni” by KEONI (Word)

One accusation frequently levelled at the Christian music industry is that it’s obsessed with finding “safe” equivalents of whoever’s big on the mainstream music scene. There’s some truth in that (you only have to listen to a lot of Christian music to see it), but there is one artist who’s always eluded the Nash Vegas copyists. As much as it’s tried, CCM has never been able to deliver a Christian Prince. Yeah, I know – we’ve got Tonex. But he isn’t really, is he? Topic for a separate debate, I guess.

Anyway, before Tonex, the closest Christian music got to a Prince soundalike was Keoni (and the fact that you’ve just read that sentence and said “Keoni who?” proves how successful he was).  This dude was funky and rocky in equal measure. Just listen to his cover of Sly & the Family Stone’s ‘You Can Make It’ that kicked off his self-titled debut album – man, what a punch! The album even had a couple of members of the New Power Generation playing on it. He could have been a contender…

Of course I have my own theories as to why Keoni wasn’t a hit. Keoni’s androgynous look on the photographs in the CD booklet can’t have helped matters much; they must have given conservative churchgoers – ccm’s core buying public – a major case of the heebie-jeebies. But Cross Rhythms magazine’s review best sums up the album’s undoing: “An intriguing album, though I have my doubts whether it’s a particularly commercial one.”

From the Y Crate: Stephen Simmonds

From the Y Crate, #1:

“Get Down” by STEPHEN SIMMONDS (Diesel)

I was in my first year at uni when this gem was released late in 1998, and GLR (my favourite station at the time) had it in heavy rotation.

Given GLR’s slightly elitist bent, that’s probably one reason it wasn’t a hit… but the mad conspiracy theorist in me has another. He reckons the powers that be felt the British public could only cope with one black Swedish soul singer at a time. And since Eagle-Eye Cherry already had that gig, Steve had to take the fall. Sad, really, ‘cos it was a cool tune – driven by a groove kind of reminiscent of Omar in his more esoteric moments (and there were times when Stephen’s voice reminded you of Omar too).

I got to interview Stephen at the time this single was released, and found him to be quite a wise, level-headed bloke – impressions that were confirmed when I then saw him sing live at Sound in Leicester Square. I hope he’s still making music, because we need more free spirits like his around.